Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Nowak visited the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad. He met with Anton Alikhanov, the region’s governor, to discuss efforts to strengthen the exclave’s energy security. Perhaps Russia is seeking to go tit-for-tat after Lithuania had banned the transit of some goods to the Kaliningrad region over EU sanctions.
The fierce Ukrainian defense operation in Donbas serves its purpose: as more troops are killed and the Ukrainian army is running short of weapons, Ukrainian forces try to encircle many Russian troops in a relatively small area. It takes a few weeks for Russian troops to claim a major town or city in Ukraine. But they have no military potential to conduct campaigns elsewhere. The authorities in Kyiv seem to have adopted a strategy that consists in delivering heavy losses to the enemy, but this comes at a substantial cost for Ukraine, too. Its officials hope to receive more advanced heavy weapons and additional financial support to stave off Russia’s unprovoked invasion. This tactic needs to bring fruits.
India is seeking to double down on Russian oil imports while Russia is sending more oil from its Kozmino port in the Far East. China suspends imports while other countries, including Sri Lanka, evince growing interest in Russian hydrocarbons. Russia sells oil at heavy discounts, overtaking oil-rich Gulf monarchies that would send its hydrocarbons to the east. They are forced to cut oil prices to make Russian oil less attractive in the long run.
State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, received a draft federal law on “special economic measures” that in fact introduced a centrally planned economy and make private businesses dependent on the state.
Quite surprisingly, Russian gas giant Gazprom has decided not to pay dividends on last year’s results, which were record high.
The price of Russian gas for Moldova increased by 11 percent, to $980 per thousand cubic meters in July, the head of state energy firm Moldovagaz Vadim Ceban said in a statement. Moldova has so far paid $880 per thousand cubic meters of gas.
There has been an increased number of attacks against pro-Kremlin officials in Ukrainian regions that have come under Moscow control, notably in Kherson and Zaporizhia. The southeastern city of Melitopol has been at the heart of the Ukrainian resistance movement while there have been more attacks targeting Russian troops in Kherson and adjacent villages.
Leonid Fedun, the vice president of Russia’s second-largest oil producer Lukoil, has stepped down from his post shortly after the company’s CEO Vagit Alekperov had left the energy giant. Both resignations probably came in response to Western sanctions on Russia. An owner of a top-tier Russian soccer club, Spartak, Fedun had never been sanctioned for his business activity.
On June 28, Bulgaria ordered 70 Russian diplomatic staff out of the country, claiming that they have been working against Sofia’s interests. The expulsion is another blow to the Russian spy ring in Bulgaria.
Russian oil tankers are sailing under a foreign flag to avoid sanctions. China has helped Putin’s Russia by ramping up purchases of Russian oil.
A two-month operation to target Ukrainian positions in Severodonetsk failed to produce any tangible effects for Russia. The best way would consist in encircling Ukrainian troops in the Azov chemical plant but Russian forces are unable to do so, seeking to cut off the Ukrainians further, which is on the western bank of the Donets River. Claiming Lysychansk would put an end to the defense of Severodonetsk.
Russia has recently violated Danish territorial waters, performed flights with transponders off, and staged a large-scale drill in its exclave region of Kaliningrad. Thus Moscow has reacted aggressively to the Swedish and Finnish bids to join the Western military alliance NATO. Such breaches could become common as NATO leaders will meet in Madrid on June 28–30.
The leader of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov has never got on well with federal strongmen, in particular FSB officers. His radical stance on the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Chechen involvement––quite brazen in social media outlets––consolidated his position in Moscow. Kadyrov’s recent visits to the Russian capital displayed both his ambition and influence.
Still active in Syria, Russia has no intention of giving up in some war-torn places where it has gained an advantage over other players. Although Moscow redirected some troops from Syria to fight in Ukraine, Moscow still occupies a vital role in the Middle Eastern country. Israel and Turkey seem to have realized they both might fill in the void left by the Russian military.
The Kremlin has earned a record profit from oil although its invasion of Ukraine has continued for more than three months, triggering a set of punitive measures. Russia reports a drop in its exports to the European Union, but sells more to some alternative markets, notably India. Record-breaking oil prices mean more money to the Russian federal budget, also to sponsor the invasion of Ukraine. Oil-related revenues will edge up as the Russian finance ministry is planning to raise an export levy.
French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, and German Chancellor headed to Kyiv, Ukraine, to check whether the Ukrainian authorities are eager to make concessions to Russia to end the war. Perhaps the three Western leaders––all of whom contact regularly Vladimir Putin––have submitted a list of conditions for entering peace talks with Russia.
Amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Poland has emerged as a key supporter of Ukraine. It was enough for Moscow to consider the country hostile to the Kremlin. Russia is fearful of the Poland-Ukraine rapprochement, which resonated in what the country’s foreign minister, chief of the foreign intelligence agency, and the Security Council secretary have said publicly.
The government of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega authorized the deployment of Russian troops, planes, and ships to Nicaragua for training, law enforcement, or emergency response purposes. This is another confirmation of the Russia-Venezuela alliance that resembles the one in the Cold War era when Sandinistas remained staunch allies of the Soviet Union. Russia sees the Ortega regime as a member of the Cuba-Venezuela-Nicaragua club that targets the United States and its Latin American allies. Moscow has played the first two for intelligence and military purposes and now Nicaragua joins the club.
Ukraine’s fierce defense of the eastern town of Severodonetsk is more strategic than tactical, which resembles the defense of Mariupol. Kyiv is taking advantage of the Russian strategy where politics prevails over purely military considerations. Moscow’s efforts to amass troops in Donbas allow Ukraine forces to perform more efficient strikes both in the east and south. So seizing the whole Luhansk region, which is politically important, may mean territorial losses elsewhere, notably in the south.
As what Moscow refers to as a “special operation” in Ukraine enters a new stage, Moscow has to lower expectations. Russian forces failed to target Ukraine from many sides and toppled the government in Kyiv. Then troops withdrew from Ukraine’s north and northeast to amass forces before the Donbas operation. The Russians remain far from occupying the eastern Ukrainian region. What it now seems is that Moscow is pushing to claim the region at any price and then suggest a truce. This is bad news for Ukraine. That is why the Ukrainian military now fiercely defends some chunks of the Luhansk region with Severodonetsk and the Donetsk region where both Sloviansk and Kramatorsk are located.